Sports Psychology Graduate Programs

Sports psychology graduate programs explore the motivation and behavior behind athletic performance. Read on to learn about degree requirements, curriculum, online learning and employment options after graduation. Schools offering Human Behavior degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Types of Sports Psychology Graduate Degrees and Programs are Available?

Master's degrees - usually the Master of Science - and doctoral degrees in sports psychology are widely available. Many schools also offer certificates in the field, which are usually designed for professionals and current graduate students. Typically, graduate programs in sports psychology aren't offered through a school's psychology department, but through a kinesiology, sport and nutrition, exercise science or human services division.

Some programs are more research intensive, while others are more focused on the practical applications of sports psychology. Nearly all programs allow you to specialize in an area of the field, like motivation, performance enhancement or motor learning. Most master's-level and doctoral programs require a thesis - or a practicum if the program is more applied in nature - and a comprehensive examination in order to graduate.

Degree LevelsMaster's, doctorate and certificate
Course TopicsExercise physiology, motor control, behavior modification and health psychology
Online OptionsMaster's degree available online
Possible CareersAthletic trainer, coach and consultant; professor with doctoral degree

What Will I Learn?

You'll learn about the physical and mental factors that influence physical activity and optimal athletic performance. Topics like motor control, biomechanics, behavior modification, exercise physiology and health psychology are usually part of a graduate sports psychology curriculum. You'll also develop an understanding of how individuals and teams are motivated, and how they set and achieve goals. During a doctoral program, you will usually take more courses in statistics, measurement and research methods. Practical experience is gained in a school's behavioral or exercise lab.

While sports psychology programs can prepare you for a career consulting with gifted athletes and professional sports teams, the topics they address are usually far broader in scope. You might decide to focus on how sports and exercise can influence a certain population, like at-risk adolescents, disabled individuals or substance abusers. Maybe you're more interested in analyzing how physically active people recover from injury or how coaches can better motivate their players.

Can I Earn These Degrees Online?

Online graduate degrees in sports psychology aren't common, but a few are available. Most schools offer the master's degree through distance learning and allow students to complete courses at their own pace, independent of any predetermined class schedule. Doctoral degrees in sports psychology are not offered online.

What Can I Do With These Degrees?

Graduate degree holders in sports psychology have a wide range of career choices, including coach, athletic trainer and sports psychology consultant. You may be employed by a particular sports team or even an athlete. With a doctoral degree, you can also go on to become a college or university professor.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect data on the sports psychologist profession in particular, but the organization does report that employment of psychologists is expected to increase 19% between 2014 and 2024, much faster than average for all jobs. The BLS also reports that opportunities will be best for students who possess a doctorate in the field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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